I love watching plants change from winter twigs to beautiful shrubs. One day last week this red huckleberry branch caught my eye.
Within a day’s time the branch had changed significantly.
And four days later this is what it looked like:
This is a photo of the red huckleberry shrub taken on March 30.
And on April 5 it looked like this:
The exquisite intricacy of Nature is amazing.
[Note: I’ve been getting frustrated because I haven’t been able to get clear close up photos. I discovered it was because the iPhone camera was focusing on the background. When I hold my hand behind the item I want to photograph the item becomes clear immediately. So expect to see my hand a lot!]
We have so many Oregon Grape shrubs on the restoration site. Some of them north of the Hanford stairs were planted by Earth Corps 10-15 years ago. Some of the ones south of the stairs were planted by a neighborhood group 6-10 years ago. All of shrubs had been crushed by blackberry vines but thrived once they were freed from those invasive plants. We have also planted new Oregon Grape shrubs throughout the site.
In the days after our January 21 forest restoration work party, some peculiar events occurred. I wrote about them in Mystery in the Greenbelt.
I don’t know where the mystery shovel or the mystery plant came from. The only clue was the blue and white checkered flagging tape that was hanging from one of the branches of the plant. We had put that tape on all of the trees, shrubs and ground covers we planted during the 2017-18 planting season. But I still haven’t found a hole or a missing plant.
At the time, I decided that since there was no rationale explanation for the mystery, I would accept a non-rational one. I concluded that the plant was sitting on the side of The Rack Zone because it was “supposed” to be the first plant we planted in that area.
[The Rack Zone is located in the foundation of a house that we believe burned down in the 50’s. We have put all the blackberry, ivy and bindweed vines plus all of the weed we have removed since early in 2017 on drying racks in that area. During the January 21 work party, we took apart all but three of the drying racks and spread the contents over the concrete foundation. Our plan has been to eventually use that space as a planting area. The first photo below shows The Rack Zone after we had spread most of the dried debris on January 21. We have continued to add dried debris to that area since then. The second photo shows one of those work parties.]
So I planted the mystery shrub in The Rack Zone. I didn’t know what kind of plant it was and I didn’t know if it was alive.
When most of the plants on the site began to bud this year and that one didn’t, I thought it was probably dead. Then on March 18th some tiny buds appeared!
When I looked at the shrub again on March 21, there were leaves.
It was beginning to look like the shrub was an Oceanspray plant. In the days that followed, leaves emerged from all over the plant.
We now have a plant in The Rack Zone and it IS Oceanspray. I am eager to discover how it reacts to being in that environment. I hope one day it looks like this Oceanspray shrub I saw last summer.
I spend so much time working in the Greenbelt that I often don’t notice what is going on in my own yard.
Two days ago, I realized my camellia shrub had started blooming, and the flowers were beautiful.
When I knelt down to take a photo of a bloom towards the bottom of the bush…
… I saw that there was something partially buried in the ground. I pulled it out.
Where did the shoe come from and when? It certainly didn’t come from my house. I looked around and noticed that the bottom part of my neighbor’s rotten garage was in front of me.
An animal must have pulled the shoe from there at some point. Finding something so unusual in my yard felt like an added bonus. I now had a mini adventure to report on, in addition to sharing the beautiful flowers.
Some of the native shrubs we were given to plant in the Greenbelt this past November were already dormant. Some were simply twigs that look dead. Some of the twigs were even broken. I didn’t have much hope for those, but when I walked through the restoration site yesterday I discovered that life was emerging even from the twigs that looked least likely to survive!
Amma teaches us to be like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice. We certainly had an opportunity to practice that teaching during our March 17 work party.
At the beginning of the work party, there were five team leaders present and ready for action. The plan for the day took an unexpected turn when no one from the group who was going to do the March planting showed up.
The native shrubs and ground covers we were planting that day were bare root plants or plugs, so we didn’t have the luxury of planting them over time; they had to be planted that day. When it became clear that the group wasn’t going to come, the team leaders “rolled up their sleeves” and started planting the 65 plants themselves.
I called John (neighbor) and asked if he would carry the wood chips we use for mulch to the various planting areas. Thankfully, he was available and came right away. With his help, we were able to finish the project by 2:00 pm!
I was too busy planting and carrying wood chips to take any photos during this work party, but took pictures of some of the plants and planting areas later.
(You can enlarge the photos by clicking on any picture in the gallery below.)
If we were being “tested” on flexibility, persistence, letting go, accepting what is, doing whatever it takes, equanimity and/or being like a bird perched on a dry twig, I’d say we passed the test!
We will be planting 75 shrubs and ground covers in our GreenFriends forest restoration site on March 17. The March 10 work party focused on getting new areas prepared for planting. Almost all of our team leaders attended that work party as did seven members of the Franklin National Honor Society. In addition, friends of two of the team leaders worked with us. In all, 16 volunteers took part in the March 10 work party.
During the last two years, when we cut or pulled out vines such as blackberry, ivy and bindweed, and when we dug out blackberry root balls, we usually took the waste to the foundation of a house that exists on our Greenbelt site. Once there, we placed the waste on drying racks that we had built inside the foundation. We call that area “The Rack Zone” and we generally refer to the dried vines, branches and root balls as “debris.”
In January, we had taken apart the majority of the racks in The Rack Zone and spread the debris throughout the Zone. The debris will continue to decompose and in time The Rack Zone will become another planting area.
Not all of the debris is located in The Rack Zone however; some of it has been placed on racks that are scattered throughout the site. During the first part of the March 10 work party, we began the process of putting the dried debris in those piles on tarps… and then dumped the contents in The Rack Zone. Removing the piles of debris was the first step in getting those areas ready for planting.
We started by dismantling the racks on the south end of the site. The photo below shows what one area looked like at the beginning of the work party. Last Fall, that pile of debris had been four to five feet high but other work party participants had removed a lot of it. Our goal during this work party was to move the remainder of the debris to The Rack Zone.
We would also be taking down a big pile of debris just east of it. You can see part of that pile in the middle left section of the photo above. That pile was much bigger than what you can see in the photo.
These two piles were located at the southwest part of the site. We also removed a pile of debris in the southeast section of the site and one north of the Hanford Stairs.
(You can enlarge the photos in any of the galleries by clicking on one of the photos.)
The southwest area looked like this once the piles had been removed. The debris that is still scattered on the ground will become mulch.
While most of the volunteers were clearing the section on the southwest part of the site, a smaller group worked in the southeast area. The photo below was taken of this space the end of September 2018.
The volunteers in this group moved the pile of dried debris to The Rack Zone.
In the photo below, a team leader is teaching the students how to dig out blackberry root balls. If you look up the hill from where they are standing, you will also see some of the larger group working in the southwest area. By the time this photo was taken, both groups had removed most of the debris in their areas.
This is what the space in the southeast area looked like once the pile of debris and the blackberry root balls had been removed. The land is ready for planting and the remaining debris will be used for mulch.
An hour-and-a-half into the March 10 work party, we took a snack break. Afterwards, we divided into three groups.
Before I tell you about Group 1’s work, I will share some back story.
There is an area along 25th Ave S. that is part of an adjacent Greenbelt site. When we started to clear that area during the February 24 work party, blackberry, ivy and periwinkle vines formed a tight web over much of the ground. There was also a lot of downed trees, branches and other debris.
While we had accomplished a great deal on February 24, I felt overwhelmed by what it would take to have it ready for planting on March 17.
A few days later, I worked on my own and cleared enough space to feel some hope that we could have it ready by the 17th. My neighbor John worked alongside me the two following days. Since he uses a pick ax, we progressed much faster. The land suitable for planting was growing!
During this work party on March 10, Group 1 removed a debris pile from the 25th Ave. S area and expanded the planting area. They also moved a lot of the branches and logs that were scattered in that area and dug out blackberry root balls.
John and Jason, who are both neighbors and team leaders, worked in an area where blackberry vines had pulled two trees to the ground. They freed those trees and cut down blackberry vines in the surrounding area. I wish I had been present when the trees lost their shackles. I love to see how the they snap up and reach for the sky in that moment .
This area will take a lot more work to clear. Here is what it looks like now.
Prior to this work party, I marked the places where new plants will be planted. In each space, I placed a pink flag, a white sign that indicates the name of the plant and a stick with red and black flagging tape. The red and black tape indicates that the item was planted during the 2018-19 planting season.
On March 17, participants will look for the pink flags. They will then plant the specified shrub or ground covers putting the white sign and the stick with the red and black flagging tape into the ground next to the plant.
The third group of volunteers worked in the lower planting area that is on the north side of the Hanford Stairs and near Cheasty Blvd. Their task was to see that all three markers had been left for each future plant .
When that task was finished, those volunteers moved to a different part of the site and cleaned out leaves and wood chips from the “donut holes” around the trees, shrubs and ground covers that had been planted in previous years. (When we plant, we put a four inch layer of wood chips around each plant to hold in moisture. We keep the area close to the plant free of those wood chips. That area is referred to as the donut hole.)
The group also removed the leaves from one entire planting area. All of the leaves were taken to The Rack Zone. The areas looked so beautiful when the group finished their work.
The group who had worked in the southeast section during the first part of the work party, continued working there after the snack break. They finished digging out the root balls and then cut back the blackberry vines that are on the south edge of the property. (We have to leave a buffer zone between the neighbor’s house and the Greenbelt so we will need to continue to cut back those vines throughout the year and for years to come.)
In the third photo below you will see both the buffer zone and that there is a mound of dried debris that goes across the planting area. That area of the site is hilly. Numerous strips like that one were placed there last year in an attempt to prevent or reduce erosion.
I encouraged everyone to walk in The Rack Zone as much as possible throughout the work party, hoping all the traffic would break down the debris faster. I was delighted to see a group of volunteers gathering there towards the end of the event.
As always, I was amazed by how much we had accomplished during the three-hour work party. I believe everyone had a good time and I appreciated that the new planting areas were all ready to receive the new plants.
An added bonus is that the Franklin National Honor Society students want to come back! I look forward to working with them again in the future.